I overheard a conversation at The Brick on Saturday night, wherein two patrons discussed briefly that the show happening that night was a reunion, of sorts, for the Manhattan, KS, music crowd of the mid ’90s to present day. Though it may have been spoken as a bit of an exaggeration, the pitifully filled room would beg to differ. Standing about the floor were a few dozen concert goers engaging in conversations or entertaining themselves at the bar, almost all of them having been of the age to have witnessed not only Little Apple locals Egomaniacs‘ initial shake as a performing band, but to have also been witness to the members’ previous acts, of which there are many.
The night opened right after 10:00 with The Chaotic Goods playing a 35-minute set. Though the members hail from various parts of Kansas (namely the city to which I have referred), the five-piece now collectively call the Kansas City area their home. I had experienced the band’s set only once prior (at the same venue, no less), and concluded upon the second time that in the nine months since then, the band has cut a lot of the fat out from their sound. Gone was the hour-long, multi-genre set, in its place a well-trimmed handful of songs displaying what I initially liked best about the band: quirky, nerdy and poppy rock songs with an added bite. So well received they were, that even as an opener, the crowd that gathered requested an encore. That may have been the already freely flowing drinks talking, though. Overall, vocalist and frequent air guitar player Ralph Reichert harmonized well among guitarists Marty Robertson and Ray Kristek, only falling flat with one another a time or two.
“Good evening,” drummer/vocalist Tyson Schroeder proclaimed once sitting behind the kit at 11:15, “we’re (the) Medicine Theory, and we love whiskey.” What followed was a 40-minute set that calls to mind the best stripped-down Chicago and twin cities filth that Amphetamine Reptile Records ever released in the early days of noise rock (refer to the first few installations of the Dope, Guns & Fucking in the Streets compilations or St. Louis band Drunks With Guns for guidance in this area). Joined only by guitarist Jeff Irvine and a variety of pedals, the duo blasted through weird, out-of-tune, and often downright crude songs that covered topics from pornography to Presidential hopefuls. That’s a two-for-one, actually, as both appeared in the same song, along with the line “I’m gonna occupy Rick Santorum’s mouth.” Some in the crowd seemed uneasy, but Schroeder’s light-hearted banter and the public calling out of those who were leaving between songs kept up the mood.
Egomaniacs started their 45-minute set about 12:30 and ran through more than a full-length’s worth of songs in that time. I recall in my younger days listening to the band’s only legitimate album, Primer (their triple-disc The Rest Of can be found in digital format as well), and thinking how great it would have been had I not completely missed out on their existence. This night was only one of a few reunion shows the band has played since they parted ways about a decade ago. Not to say the members have not kept busy with great projects in the interim, as singer/guitarist John Evans has kept himself busy with music for the last 15 years. The band’s live show was both deafeningly loud and blindingly fast, all of the songs played at a rhythm that puts the source material to shame. Evans would mostly shout or growl the words to the songs, occasionally hitting a shriek reminiscent of Black Francis or Poster Children’s Rick Valentin. Despite the crowd yelling for more songs at the end, the trio gave a thank you and quietly left the stage.
I Dress Smartly
In Europe They Like Their Metal with Swords
Short Bus Union
Nerd talk: As mentioned above, John Evans (not to be confused with the KC-based Evans with the stage name John Velghe) is a rather prolific musician in his hometown of Manhattan, KS. Before forming Egomaniacs, he spent time with Marty Robertson in El Fontain, and since then has been seen in The Pembertons, Faultlines, Variable Speed Control, The Goodbye Sort (with Egos bassist David Boomer), The Hard Guilt (with Egos drummer Matt Anderson), and Thick Electric (once again with Boomer on bass).
Tyson Schroeder and Jeff Irvine have been playing music together intermittently for nearly two decades. First, in the ’90s noise band Methods of Man, then upon both members residing in the same city once more, in the mid-’00s rock band (I hesitate to refer to it as noise, as it has much more melody than the current project) under the name of kill.pop., a band which essentially morphed into MT. In addition to the listed bands, Irvine has played with instrumental rockers Auternus and is currently honing A Light Within for their debut live performance this spring. Schroeder, who when not professing his affinity for adult beverages and entertainment, is a locally renowned artist (and creator of the poster you see at the top of this piece), and plays in Knife Crime with Byron Huhmann, a doorman at The Brick, and Brad Huhmann, who played in Onward Crispin Glover with Marty Robertson.
Something I’ve been meaning to get around to since the conception of this blog is to give more attention to that which was released years ago. To date, I’ve focused much of my efforts on covering current music, while at most giving a passing mention to the bands that pre-date those to which I refer. From this point forward, the Looking Back posts will cover releases from bands that have become otherwise forgotten, or at the very least overlooked in the sea of currently active bands in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas. I will try my best to include a scan or decent photo of the front/back cover of the releases, as well as my own personal rip of the album in question. Of course this will not always be possible, but we will deal with that when the problem arises. First up:
It looks like 1996 was a pretty good year for the bands involved, though nowhere near as busy as the year prior for Manhattan’s Truck Stop Love. In 1995, the band released their well-received country, rock, and punk-tinged debut full-length How I Spent My Summer Vacation, as well as the often overlooked Fuentez the Killer EP that contained a cover of Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart.” In the year of this release, Lawrence three-piece Action Man made their debut with Adventures in Boredom on both compact disc and 10″ vinyl. The two crossed paths with this split, and it also served as one of the last releases from either band.
At the link provided, you can find one track from each band recorded when they were essentially in their prime, or at the origins of their eventual demise depending on how you view their timelines. “Nothing Left to Start” clocks in at three minutes, and is a slower-paced but no less riff-heavy offering than much of their material to date, while the three-and-a-half minute “Pool or Pond?” showcases what was to become Chris Tolle’s signature style that made his next band The Creature Comforts such a locally loved act. Both songs are exclusive to this release.
Download here: http://www.mediafire.com/?6whs9vwhs44dis5
For those of you expecting one of my history lessons in this post, I will not leave you wanting. Truck Stop Love on this recording was headed up by Rich Yarges and Jim Crego (of TV Fifty, who replaced Matt Mozier — later of Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers). Yarges and Crego both went on to live in the greater Minneapolis area, which makes sense given their affinity with bands from that area in their songwriting. The rhythm section of the band was given its strength from Brad Huhmann, who went on to play in Onward Crispin Glover and Lushbox shortly after the band parted ways, and who more recently can be seen in Red Kate and Knife Crime.
Drummer Eric Melin, formerly of the Moving Van Goghs, saw success once TSL split with Ultimate Fakebook, and is now in The Dead Girls. Fakebook recorded a cover of Truck Stop’s song that you see listed in this post, and it appeared on the band’s 1999 split with The Stereo (which you can find at a blog worth reading here). TSL played a reunion show about eight years ago, but it will likely never happen again for various reasons, not the least of which being that the members don’t even live in the same climate these days.
Before Action Man became known for their poppy, Chris Tolle-supplied power chords, there was a short-lived band called Five-0, with AM’s Steve Buren and Randy Fitzgerald (of Dave Dale’s post-Micronotz jaunt Joe Worker) playing in a three-piece with John Harper (originally of the Micronotz, later of other mainstays such as The Kelly Girls, with Fitzgerald and Dale). Buren also played with Randy’s brother Ron in classic Lawrence punk bands Brompton’s Cocktail and The Hayseeds (the latter was an additional Harper band).
As I’ve already detailed in a paragraph here, Tolle has been known in chronological order as being a part of Rise, AM, The Creature Comforts, The Belles, Olympic Size, Early Reflections, and most recently has been self-releasing some recordings under his own name. Five-0 more or less morphed into what was to become Action Man, and rumor has it that Harper was initially game for the band, but decided to bow out after a handful of practice sessions, never having recorded or performed live with the trio. Upon Action Man parting ways, Tolle started the Creature Comforts with J.D. Warnock (with whom he played in Rise), who also filled in as a second guitarist for some later Fakebook recordings and live performances.
Disclaimer: the album included in this post was attained and ripped by the author, and all pictures or scans present were taken by author unless noted. Should a party involved in the release of the album feel their work is not fitting of digital documentation and prefers it not be freely traded among those without access to the physical product, the author will comply in the removal of the link with little question. Thank you for reading.
There is no better downtown location in which to see a powerpop/rock show than The Brick. With the exception of the dive bar bathrooms, the venue is one of my favorite places to not only see a reasonably priced show but to eat a good meal with cheap drink specials to boot. I am lucky enough to both work and live within blocks of The Brick, and try my damnedest to patronize the location on at least a monthly basis. Although they are not operating within a very large space, I’ve noticed their sound is always exactly as it should be and have rarely encountered a night when I am unable to hear one of the musicians on stage. This past weekend, I attended live shows at the venue two nights in a row, a first for me at any venue in KC since I was a teenager and had the extra money to hang out at all-ages places such as the El Torreon a few nights a week during the summer. My double night attendance was nearly pushed into a triple night, but alas, I missed the tour kick-off of The ACB’s with headliner Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin the night before.
The night was kicked off at around 10:30 with opener Deco Auto, a powerpop trio who only made their debut as a performing band back in April. I would have been in attendance had it not interfered with my previously scheduled plans to be in Westport for the Middle of the Map Festival. The band played a seemingly short set that turned out to be half an hour and consisted of ten songs with only a few moments between having any kind of banter from guitarist/vocalist Steven Garcia, who later explained to the crowd that he is usually much more friendly. Few and far between were the people who watched the band play without talking to their nearby friends, and the set was only viewed by a sparse two dozen people.
It is easy to judge a young band still trying to get their footing within the music scene, even if the members are veterans of live music themselves. Deco Auto, young and fresh as the entity itself is, really don’t have far to go before they can book time in a studio and get some of the songs I heard recorded to tape. The rough edges seem to still be an ongoing process, but the combination of Garcia’s strong voice for melodic punk-influenced rock and bassist Tracy Flowers supplying an additional level of melody with her vocals, creates a kind of catchy, late ’90s pop-punk/powerpop sound that is best with rough edges intact. The rhythmic backbone from drummer Michelle O’Brien completes the trifecta of Deco Auto, her stripped down playing style taking cues from the earliest days of pop music from seminal acts like The Yardbirds and The Dave Clark Five.
The next to take the stage was another new band called The Chaotic Goods, five guys who hail from Manhattan, KS, and most of which have been active in music for nearly two decades. I was particularly looking forward to seeing this band due to the inclusion of guitarist Marty Robertson, known for his work in Frogpond, Abileen, Onward Crispin Glover and the embarrassingly unspoken of El Fontain. The band began their set strong, touching on a Danger Bob-esque approach to quirky nerd rock/powerpop, vocalist Ralph Reichert at one point exclaiming simply “we write songs about girls,” among other quips between he and a few of the more talkative members of the audience. As the band progressed, there were more and more hit-or-miss songs, some that were an outright throwback to grunge in the worst way, and some that could have been considered for inclusion on an iconic Kansas City Misery type compilation, had the band existed more than 15 years ago when the original was released.
The longer the band played, the more restless the crowd was becoming and the more their talking amongst themselves was increasing. Let it be noted, that had the band played half as long as they actually did, and cut out an equal amount of their set list, they would have been overall well-received by not only myself but the majority of those in attendance that had grown tired of some of the very repetitive songs being played. When they left the stage, I was left a little bitter that they could have been so much better had they not tried to cover so much musical ground in an hour. The vocal harmonization among Reichert, Robertson, and guitarist Ray Kristek was generally in tune and certain songs would have severely suffered had they lacked it, and I was amused with Robertson and bassist Chad Myers frequently trading instruments between songs, but I think the band was just on the wrong lineup on the wrong night.
If there is any band in the metro area that doesn’t get the respect and attention they deserve, it’s chronic room-clearers The Dead Girls. Blame it on their name (someone once told me they expected them to be a metal band) or the fact that, if headlining, they don’t begin playing until some bars and venues are having last call. Blame it on the cringe-worthy banter between guitarists/vocalists Cameron Hawk and JoJo Longbottom, but nobody can say the quartet aren’t all equally talented musicians who put on one hell of a rock show. One could only speculate why the ‘former members of’ hype doesn’t catch up to the powerpop group composed of 2/3 of Ultimate Fakebook and 1/2 of Podstar, but they still manage to play to a small but dedicated built-in audience multiple times a month between Kansas City and their home of Lawrence, KS.
Sitting at a table prior to their performance, and with a cup of hot tea at his side, Hawk explained that he was losing his voice and so their set list that night would largely consist of songs written by Longbottom, Hawk performing the necessary back-up vocals. He seemed rather unfazed upon taking the stage, playing just as hard as he would have otherwise. The band barreled through a set with songs that spanned their discography to date, including the crowd pleaser “You Ignited,” from the 2010 vinyl-only full length Out of Earshot. The band has been gradually unveiling new songs in their recent performances, preparing for the release of a 7″ EP coming out on the same label that released their last effort, as well as the vinyl issue of Ultimate Fakebook’s Electric Kissing Parties. The EP is scheduled for release later in 2011 on Rocketheart Records.